British weightlifting champion and actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” films, has died aged 85, his management company announced Sunday.

On Sunday morning, the actor’s management company shared on Twitter the news of his death “It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and millions of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85.”

David Prowse died after a short illness, according to his agent Thomas Bowington. CNN reported in 2018 that Prowse was being treated for prostate cancer.

“May the force be with him, always!” his former agent, Thomas Bowington, said in a statement to the BBC.

“Though famous for playing many monsters — for myself, and all who knew Dave and worked with him, he was a hero in our lives.”

Prowse wore the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy, while James Earl Jones provided the villain’s iconic voice. George Lucas asked Prowse to audition for Star Wars after seeing the 6-foot-6 actor in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. he actor was originally offered a choice between the role of Vader or Chewbacca, and opted for the latter because, as he told the BBC, “you always remember the bad guy.” Plus, he added, he didn’t fancy wearing Chewbacca’s fur suit.

Prowse played Luke Skywalker’s erstwhile father in Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, but famously, his voice didn’t make it into the films. He said all Vader’s lines, but the voice of James Earl Jones was later dubbed in.

The towering Prowse is also known for his role as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Used to playing hulking monsters, Prowse portrayed Frankenstein’s creature in three separate films: Casino Royale (1967), The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974). He also made a cameo on the popular British science-fiction show Doctor Who as a minotaur.

Before his work in film, Prowse was a champion bodybuilder and fitness consultant in the UK in the 1960s. He owned three gyms in London and trained Christopher Reeve for his role as Superman. His biggest role before Darth Vader was as the Green Cross Code Man, a hero who promoted street-crossing safety to children in a government public service campaign. 

Mark Hamill, who portrayed Prowse’s on-screen Star Wars son, Luke Skywalker, tweeted his condolences Sunday. “He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader,” who “loved his fans as much as they loved him.” he wrote.

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